SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Timothy O’Neal played a round with Charlie Sifford in 1999.
Twenty years later, the Savannah native will play in a PGA Tour event thanks to Sifford’s impact on the game.
O’Neal has received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption into the Genesis Open next month, tournament host Tiger Woods announced Wednesday.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Tim compete in the Genesis Open,” Woods said in a statement. “Like Charlie did as a player, Tim has shown great determination in his professional career. I know Charlie would be proud to have Tim playing in the Genesis Open as the Charlie Sifford exemption.”
It will be the 7th PGA Tour start for the former Johnson Atom Smasher. His last appearance was a missed cut in the 2015 U.S. Open.
O’Neal has three career victories on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour and was named the 2018 Advocates Pro Golf Association Player of the Year. He also won the Georgia Open in August 2018.
“Mr. Sifford has been an example on how to carry yourself on and off the golf course," O’Neal said in a statement. "I am extremely humbled and grateful to have received the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption for 2019 Genesis Open.”
Sifford was the first African-American player on the PGA Tour. This year’s Genesis Open marks the 50th anniversary of Sifford’s L.A. Open victory, the second and final win of his career.
Beginning in 2009, the Genesis Open has given an exemption to a golfer representing a minority background. Two years ago, that exemption was named in honor of Sifford.